[LINK] A call to arms - parallel book imports

Chris Gilbey chris at perceptric.com
Thu Jul 16 06:37:09 AEST 2009

A couple of points on this debate....

1. Booko ­ I have bought books through companies that Booko pointed me at
and it is a great service. It is run by a guy in Melbourne who I got in
touch with because I was so impressed. He gets a partner fee commission from
some of the people he links to but not all was what he shared with me. I
ended up making the purchases through Book Depository, which was a great
service too. 
2. As far as pricing goes what is left out of this discussion is how that
book publishing business actually works. There are several things that
influence price at the counter. First: big retailers already have huge clout
in terms of setting the prices that they pay. And this in turn drives
royalties to authors. Big trade sales almost always invoke a royalty clause
that discounts the royalty paid to the author under those circumstances, but
is generally subject to the author agreeing that the publisher can make the
volume sale. On the other hand, when a book is licensed for publishing into
a foreign country the local publisher in that country almost always has the
ability to make a volume trade sale without reference to the author and is
almost always paying a lower royalty to the Australian author ­ it depends
on how good of an agent the author has. So the bottom line is that the
author gets a lower royalty for a foreign sale.
3. There is one other issue that is a problem: dumping. When publishers in
big territories like the US have remnants that are more expensive to
continue warehousing than to pulp they like to be able to sell them to
jobbers to get rid of them. Instead of being pulped they are sold at a big
discount into countries like Australia. Since they have been written off by
the original publisher there is no royalty paid to the author. However,
since they are in all other respects new books, they are sold here as new.
But since there is no royalty there is no benefit to the writer. Once you
unravel the whole system, what happens is that authors, who get paid peanuts
anyway, end up getting bupkus.

In closing, I remember when Allan Fels was head of the ACCC and was putting
the economic rationalist ruler over the music industry in the 90¹s and
trying to get retail prices down. The record companies fought tooth and nail
against the ACCC and ended up not giving up much. I said then, ³The internet
will do to the music industry what Allan Fels has failed to do². Ultimately
there doesn¹t need to be any new regulation. The internet does it, but does
it in a much more stealthy way where publishers and retailers and authors
will all need to modify the way that their contracts function. The
fundamental issue is that the agents and the publishers are still living in
a 19th century world of contract law.


Chris Gilbey

More information about the Link mailing list